The Games Technology and Games Programming BSc courses within the Creative Technology Department at Bournemouth University (Faculty of Science and Technology) have a keen interest in our students not only seeking employment in the games industry as part of AAA developers or SMEs but also in being enterprising through their own initiatives and starting up companies of their own. This is what prompted us to be involved with GameBiz; we have a constant drive and motivation towards entrepreneurship and our participation in this project is part of that.
Currently we support starting up in games dev through the course in more indirect ways. The two degrees have one business unit in each year (three units in total); with a theme running across the courses throughout their lifespan. This theme covers subjects which are specific to starting up such as setting up your own limited company, doing its finances, taxation etc. The knowledge gained is instrumental to complementing the technical content the courses cover for somebody who wants to start up a games development studio and will not only be reliant on subject specific skills but also the business skills required to launch and sustain the effort financially.
On the second year of the courses we have a Group Project unit where, across the three terms, we use live briefs from external clients to facilitate team-building and also project management on a group level. This is alongside application of technical skills. Overall, this specific unit is crucial to their development towards a professional approach to starting up as an indie in the future; it is a great practice run towards agile development and time constraint delivery of prototypes.
Beyond Group Project, sandwiched between the second and the final year we have an industrial placement. Whilst this can be carried out at an employer; the students on the courses also have the opportunity to do a self-employed placement, and this includes forming a start-up indie games studio. In order to be able to do this we ask the students to produce a detailed business plan (which includes a personal financial survival proposal over the course of the placement) which is reviewed and then pitch to several different members of the academic team. If successful they are allowed to proceed to a 40 week placement where they can start their own company, provided they also fulfill some other requirements such as having an external industrial mentor who needs to be involved with the effort for a minimum amount of agreed contact time. The students (and their companies) are required to keep a logbook of their efforts, minutes of the meetings with the mentor and then report to the University during the 40 week period but also at the end of that.
It should be mentioned at this stage that there are also frequent industry visits from AAA and indie which provide information and guidance the students can be inspired from or contribute towards the development of their contacts/network.
Currently we do not have a dedicated incubator associated with the Games courses; this is an aspiration for the future and, as part of GameBiz we plan to explore best practices both within the UK but also of course Europe, which we can learn from before launching an initiative of our own in this very area.